Net Neutrality Day of Action

A whole bunch of websites are participating today apparently many sites will be displaying an alert on their homepage that will try to give users a feel for what the Internet would be like without net neutrality. This is a follow up to the SOPA protest back in 2012 and the Internet Slowdown day in 2014. Both of these caused some serious public knowledge. The Stop Online Piracy Act went no where and the FCC placed the internet as a Tier II communications service preventing throttling, blocking and selling speedier access to subscribers. Hopefully, this provides similar action by the general public and the FCC chairman Ajit V. Pai’s plan to end the US policies which establish net neutrality won’t go any further.

Musicals about America

Everyone knows about the stage musicals Hamilton, 1776, and perhaps George M!. Along with the movie adaption of 1776 (with William Daniels) and Yankee Doodle Dandy. These are great musicals to bring out on Independence Day but there are a few others some like the First Lady and Daughter Suites by Michael John LaChuisa you might of heard of since the First Daughter Suite came out in 2015 which sort of revived interest in the First Lady Suite. However there are a couple more musical that I know of one if a Pulitzer Prize winner and the other was a legendary flop.

The Pulitzer Prize winner is Of Thee I Sing from The Gershwin Brothers with a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. This musical is a satirical look at politics in America, it inspired The Marx Brothers classic film Duck Soup. Sure this is from way back in 1931 so the plot is pretty strange in the musical a Presidential candidate Wintergreen runs on a “love platform” and they have a beauty pageant to select the who Wintergreen will fall in love with. This doesn’t turn out as expected as Wintergreen falls for another girl. It is worth looking for to listen to and a version was on television in the 70s so you can see it if you want as well. I found out about this as I was looking up musicals that won a Pulitzer Prize since I was in two of them back in high school.

The flop is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and is from Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner. It ran seven performances on Broadway. The musical tells the story of the White House from 1800-1900 and focuses on race relations. It came out in 1976 and the only time it was revived was in 1992 by the Indiana University Opera Theatre production and it also briefly ran at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. However this has been turned into a Choral that sort of is the only way that you can hear most of the music today in A White House Cantata. Since the Bernstein estate controls the licensing of performances of the cantata version, but refuses to allow the performance, recording, or publication of the original musical. In early versions it was a weird sort of meta-musical where the actors would comment on what was happening at the time when the show moved to Broadway they eventually settled on the idea that “America is a play always in rehearsal full of constant revisions” and dropped the commentary sections. Technically there is no cast recording available to listen to but some of the songs have had a second life notably “Take Care of This House” which was preformed at the Carter Inauguration and has been covered by many others.

Sure there is good chance that the film Independence Day will be on somewhere today so if you are interested take a listen to one of the several musicals listen about or watch some thing the help you celebrate Independence Day.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

With that James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro in theaters now or just out of theaters and it being Black History month.  I’ve read, his short story, Sonny’s Blues many times and Go Tell It on the Mountain is one of those highly rated books on those list of best books of the 20th century, so I decided to read it.

Go Tell It on the Mountain was written in the 1950s and is a semi-autobiographical novel about an African American family living in Harlem in the 1930s and the role that the Pentecostal Church plays in their lives, specifically the lives of John Grimes, a 14 year old and his mother (Elizabeth), father (Gabriel) and aunt (Florence). The main conflict in the novel is between John and his father who hates him for unknown reasons according to John. We learn more about Florence, Elizabeth and Gabriel in flashbacks to how they got here. There is the constant struggle of what make a good person and can a person really change just by saying so. Florence seems to think that Gabriel is still the same person he was growing up even though he has become born again and a deacon in the Church. We get some racial issue sneaking in which seem to express the same concerns today as Black Lives Matter does but Baldwin only acknowledges it as racism existed then and still does today. Sure some progress has been made but not much and it still remains that all of us are held to the same standards by the same God.

The book doesn’t take any sides or point out flaws it just offers that we all are capable at doing good or bad but most of the time we live in between hoping that we do good.  It was a nice book to read and should be put on more high school reading lists.

Washington’s Birthday/Presidents’ Day

This upcoming Monday is Presidents’ Day in the United States and one of the traditions associated with this day is that Congress reads the Washington Farewell Address at some point. I really hope that they listen to the words of the speech and start doing their jobs. There are plenty of problems in America and it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican we have to work together to become that shining city on a hill. Yes, this holiday is complicated as there are different ways and times that it is celebrated around the US. Some states have a Lincoln/Washington birthday others wait until different times of the year to honor their own Presidents. However it is celebrated it is a day to remember not only Washington but all the others as well including Millard Filmore and William Henry Harrison. Sure some weren’t that great but they all tried their best they could and sure reflecting from the present on the events of the past always seems to put them in worse light.

Strikes and Protests

With the Trump Presidency there as been a lot of discord in the populace. On the day after the Inauguration there was the largest march in DC with sister marches across the US and the globe with close to 5 million in total. There has been talks of a science march on Earth Day, a Tax Day march urging Trump to release his tax returns, a general strike on Friday, and perhaps even a Women’s strike in the near future (March 8). This Thursday, many restaurants in DC are going to hit by a “Day without Immigrants” strike where Latino immigrants aren’t going to be showing up to work. Posters for the event reads in Spanish  “Mr. President, without us and without our contribution this country is paralyzed.” With the crappy first almost month that Trump has had with the whole Inauguration size debate, the Nordstrom’s thing with Ivanka and Kellyanne Conway’s plug, going to “winter White House” for another weekend and with Japan’s Prime Minster Abe during a wedding reception while North Korea launched nukes at Japan to Mike Flynn resigning after 20-some days. Hopefully things will turn the corner in this administration either for the better with things actually getting done or for the worse with a probe launched into Russian involvement within Trump’s White House or impeachment. Something is going to happen and it will come from out of left field.

Late Night Talk shows and Saturday Night Live news

First off with Trump being President Saturday Night Live is going through a mini Renaissance. As it is this current season is having it’s highest ratings in 22 years. All thanks to Trump there are even talks about reviving the half hour Weekend Update in the fall, that last aired back in the fall of 2008. This would give another time to lambast the President and his administration, since there aren’t enough late night shows doing this already. However, this goes Trump has been a blessing for everyone in Political comedy as it has been only the two or three weeks that he’s been President, but it seems like every day they do something stupid, Like the way Betsy DeVos became the Secretary of Education, by making donations to Republicans and having the Vice President cast the tie breaking vote for her confirmation.

Eight Days in…

Trump’s been President for a grand total of a week, officially so today since he didn’t work on Inauguration Day or that following Saturday or Sunday. The best news is that he has set a record by doing something faster than any other President in recent history, as Trump’s approval rating as of the 28th is at 42% while his disapproval is already at 51% with 7 percent unsure. He didn’t start at a great place but it’s not looking like his approval will be going up any time soon.  Especially since this polling was done before the “Muslim refugee Ban” was put in place and he put Bannon on his National Security Council. Both of these haven’t faired well with many people on both sides of the aisle. He hasn’t really gotten off on the right foot and it is doubtless that it can be truly fixed. The biggest question that I have is how can this last for an entire four or two years. When the petitions on the White House website are asking for Trump to release his tax returns, place his business into a blind trust and resign from office due to the emolution clauses in the Constitution. It’s only been eight f-ing days, only 92 left in his first 100.

Inauguration Day

In the United States today is the peaceful turnover of power that has happened since 1797, when John Adams became president. This will be the 58th Inauguration and is bound to be similar to all the rest of them.  At about 11 am the festivities begin as the former Presidents (Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama) will enter and take their places. There will be prayers and musical interludes and perhaps a poem. Around noon on January 20th the Vice President and President will both take the oath of office. The Vice President first will be swore in by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas followed by four ruffles and fluorishes and Hail Columbia, the Vice President’s song will be preformed by the Marine Band. The President comes next and will be swore in by the Chief Justice John Roberts followed by four ruffles and flourishes and Hail to the Chief with a 21-gun salute. This is typically followed by the Inaugural address. After the address Congress convenes for lunch and after lunch there is the Parade starting around 3pm or so. Then there are a couple of Inaugural balls in the evening. After the Oath of Office Trump will become the 45h President of the United States.

I hope that all Americans will give Trump at least a chance to be President before they judge him, He will be giving a major address where he will outline his agenda or something. Let’s just hope that it involves less tweeting.

Presidential Farewell Addresses

One of the unique aspect of the American system is the Farewell Address, it began with George Washington in 1789, when he “taught us how to say goodbye”, with the help of Alexander Hamilton it became a iconic speech where he looked back over his presidency and offered some advice for the future of the nation. Washington himself warns of the dangers of sectionalism and factionalism, the divisions based on party politics that even then were growing more and more bitter within the new nation’s government and among its people. It ends with a brilliant section which made it’s way into Hamilton:

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest. Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.”

Washington was such an enormous figure that it wasn’t until Andrew Jackson that a President made an official Farewell Address. Jackson himself also warns of the dangers of sectionalism and the shadowy nature of the banking institutions, as they threaten the liberty of the regular citizen. Jackson also brought forth the idea that “eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty.” The next big Farewell address came with Truman, the invention of radio and television had made the President closer to the populace as speeches could be broadcast throughout the nation. Turman’s address includes a great line with is important in these days. “Regardless of your politics, whether you are Republican or Democrat, your fate is tied up with what is done here in this room. The President is President of the whole country. We must give him our support as citizens of the United States. He will have mine, and I want you to give him yours.”

Then we come to Ike’s farewell Address which has seemed to be the direction that the nation has headed. In Eisenhower’s speech he warned about deficit spending, the potential for corruption in the Military Industrial Complex and that science would be relegated to the scientific elites and federal funded. This is one of the big farewell addresses in the 20th century. Bill Clinton in his farewell address urged that the nation treat its diverse population with “fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and regardless of when they arrived in our country, always moving toward the more perfect union of our founders’ dreams.” George W. Bush in his echoed some of the sentiments of Truman saying that “You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.” They had to make tough decisions and did what they thought was best for the nation.

Obama’s farewell comes at a unique time and his emphasis was on the average citizen, We are the people that make up this democracy in America. If we are tired of the partisan divide that seems entrenched we should not retreat into our safe communities of like minded people but go out and try as Atticus Finch says “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This is for all of us the middle class white guy should try to understand where minority groups are coming from and they in turn should do the same.  So many of us only care about the our (party) but need to focus on the We. Obama touched upon this idea in his speech in Selma, “America is not the project of any one person. Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We The People.’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ ‘Yes, We Can.’”

News Roundup

Starting with some sad news Garry Marshall, Film and Television director and creator of Happy Days, has passed away at 81. If you have no clue who Garry Marshall is you are bound to have watched something that he was involved in from Pretty Woman and the Princess Diaries on film or basically all the popular shows from the 70s, Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple.

Transportation: This was a unique story and it seem like it might be the future for all as well the NYC Subway in their 2020 plans will be adding WiFi and USB ports into cars and stations. Some people think it’s a stupid plan and would rather the Subway system just work and be clean. It like many other systems across the country are underfunded and falling apart. Then there is the USB ports as well which would be stuffed with trash and/or cause trains to be in for repair/upgrades. Not to mention the feasibility of charging a device while on a subway train and who would get to use the ports. Let’s just forget about these added value features and spend the money where it is needed on the systems themselves. It would be wonderful if the United States could look at Public Transportation as a good thing and not as a third tier replacement for the car.

Politics: So, Donald Trump has been officially nominated by the GOP to be their candidate for President and Mike Pence as Vice President. Trump will give an acceptance speech on Thursday night on the final day of the Republican National Convention.